The U.S. Dept. of Energy sponsors a biennial race of solar powered cars called the American Solar Challenge. It's a race that's every bit as competitive as the Indy 500. Engineering students at various colleges compete against each other in a race that starts in Chicago, IL and ends in Claremont, CA. "We used lithium ion batteries in place of lead-acid batteries this year," explains Brian Gilchrist, professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. He is one of the team members for the university's M-Pulse, the car that won the American competition this year. Gilchrist says it is a catalyst for innovation and beneficial to the auto industry. "Automotive manufacturers are looking at the photovoltaic systems, some of which may eventually be applied in hybrid vehicles," he says. The M-Pulse has an all-composite structure for weight reduction. Gilchrist adds that the car's aerodynamic design also helped win the race. This year's victory was especially sweet for the University of Michigan because they beat the University of Missouri at Columbia, last year's race champions. Sponsors of the race include Ford, GMC, MDSI, National Instruments, Keithley Instruments, Loctite, Motorola, and John Deere. For more information, go to www.engin.umich.edu/solarcar.
The amount of plastic clogging the ocean continues to grow. Some startling, not-so-good news has come out recently about the roles plastic is playing in the ocean, as well as more heartening news about efforts to collect and reuse it.
Some of our culture's most enduring robots appeared in the 80s. The Aliens series produced another evil android, and we saw light robot fare in the form of Short Circuit. Two of the great robots of all time also showed up: The Terminator and RoboCop.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.